We all know that sinking feeling. That sense of dread that our carefully researched bet is about to head south at a rate of knots and lady luck is sat in the corner setting fire to our money. But not all bad beats are created equally.
The Premier League and NFL always through up their share of “unlucky” results, with the latter holding more than fair share not least those involving the Patriots. Anyone who saw the 2017 Super Bowl or the December 2017 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will know how its never over until it’s over with Bill Belichick’s team.
Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were equally fond of a last-gasp bout of heroics to dig themselves and favourite-backers out of trouble, while in the 17/18 season so far it’s been Watford who’ve been the team beaten with the variance stick. Their 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace saw all four of Palace’s shots on goal come from the 89th minute onwards.
But a true bad beat is about more than just the way the goals come in the game. A true bad beat is one that lives on in the memory and leads a man to start talking about injustice to anyone who would listen. In fact, games exactly like these ones….
Detroit Lions @ NY Giants
1H Under 21.5
Half Time Score: 17-7
This early season encounter between two of the poorer teams in the NFL looked on paper like it was set to be a fairly dour affair. A Giants offense that had struggled to get going in Week 1 against a Lions team with a solid defense and not much firepower looked like a solid unders bet in the first half.
A line of 21.5 seemed fairly generous with two toothless offenses but looked in a little trouble when the first quarter ended at 7-7 with both teams looking capable of moving the ball down the field. But the second quarter played more to type with a series of turnovers and punts before Detroit managed to put together a big play to take it to 14-7. Now the sweat was real.
With seven minutes to go the defenses once more stepped up and three sets of possessions ended with punts before Detroit got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with three minutes to go. A couple of smart plays and suddenly they were near halfway at the two-minute warning, but a holding call meant suddenly it was 1st and 20 on their own 44.
With no timeouts left Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford worked his way to the Giants 48 yard line on 3rd and 12 with just over a minute left and somehow completed a 10-yard pass to take them, just, to within field goal range. A 56-yard monster was required. Unders backers were getting nervous.
Out stepped Matt Prater. It’s a huge kick to make. He’s made longer in the past, but these are far from ideal conditions and as it leaves his boot it seems like it doesn’t quite have the legs. It begins moving right….dropping…it’s going to miss! And then. WHACK! The ball hits the crossbar and bounces lazily up and drifts just inside the left post.
So the bet loses, by a couple of points due to a lucky bounce. Good, great….are you f***ing kidding me?
NY Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Giants +3.5 1H
Halftime score: 7-13
Sometimes variance is just cruel. And in Green Bay in a wildcard playoff game against the Giants she was extremely vicious to backers of Giants on the halftime spread. While you couldn’t be confident the Giants powerful defense was going to keep Rodgers at bay all game there was a sense the +3.5 line was too generous for the first half.
And with the first quarter finishing 3-0 things seemed to be going to plan. When the Giants made it to five minutes remaining in the half with a 6-0 lead and holding onto the ball things were looking very good indeed. But a disastrous four and out on their own goal line gave the ball back to Green Bay at the Giants 38 and the wheels began to come off.
Rodgers needed just three plays to score a touchdown and with 2.20 left on the clock the score read 7-6. But surely at this stage the Giants could manage to close things out? Right? Wrong. The Giants managed just four plays and ran only 40 seconds off the clock allowing Green Bay to use their last timeout and give themselves 1.40 to do some damage.
But Giants backers weren’t too concerned. A field goal would still see the bet winning. No reason to panic. And as Green Bay quickly moved the ball up the field to try and get into field goal range the nerves began to settle. An incomplete pass on 3rd and 2 with 12 seconds remaining on the Giants 42 yard-line should be that.
Rodgers took the snap. Dropped back. Waited, waited, and then threw up a hail mary pass that somehow avoided all three Giants defenders and dropped into the hands of Randall Cobb with his toes just in the edge of the end zone. Touchdown. Extra point. Losing bet.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Washington Redskins
Redskins +7 and under 48.5
Final score: 30-20
This game from week 4 of the 17/18 season might be the most ridiculous last second bad beat of all time. The Chiefs had started the season well but weren’t blowing teams away and the Redskins were picked to keep it close, while the Kansas defence wasn’t likely to cough up cheap points making the unders a good value bet.
In a topsy turvy game it was hard to tell if either was the correct call but it felt like it when Washington went into halftime with a 10-7 lead. The Chiefs hit back with a touchdown to take a 10-14 lead by another Redskins touchdown in the third quarter took it to 17-14 and both bets were looking in good shape.
The team traded field goals and with the score at 20-20 with less than a minute to go it was hard to see where the loss was coming from. The Chiefs managed to get into field goal range and kicked what looked a certain winning field goal with just eight seconds remaining. And then…a moment of madness.
With four seconds left and Washington on their own 20 yard line, the Redskins for some reason elected for a short pass to a receiver who when realising he had no way forward tried to throw it back to quarterback Kirk Cousins. He fumbled it, but the Redskins regained possession only to flick it back to a man stood stock still with two Chiefs defenders flying at him.
He spilled it and the Chiefs happily picked it up to run in for a touchdown to bring in both the spread and the overs in one of the most absurd endings to a game this year. Who’d bet on football eh?
Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Man City pre match: 2.2
Final score: 2-2
Way back in January an ascendent Spurs side visited the Etihad to face a City side that many had pegged as struggling to find top gear. The markets, however, made City decent favourites at around 2.2 and plenty of punters piled into that price. This wasn’t quite the City side of 16/17 but at home it seemed to have enough firepower to see off Spurs.
The home side certainly didn’t look to hold any fears and showed the first signs of the side we’d see the following season with an extremely aggressive looking midfield lineup. The idea seemingly was to outscore Tottenham and it was a plan that got off to a cracking start with City swarming all over Spurs and outshooting them 11-2 in the first half without hitting the net.
And shortly after the second half the dam finally broke. Sane’s left footed shot rifled into the net on the 49th minute and when De Bruyne made it 2-0 after 54 minutes this one looked to be done and dusted. Spurs had barely had a shot all game. Surely they couldn’t come back into it? No need to trade out lads…
But then almost immediately Dele Alli found the net with a header, and Spurs’ first shot on target of the game. Still it looked like it was all City, however, until Son found an equaliser on the 77th minute. Spurs held on and somehow dragged a 2-2 result from a game where they had only two shots on target.
Pep said he was “upset not to win” this one, and unless you have a poster of Harry Kane on your wall at home you would probably see his point. Expected goals expert Michael Caley perhaps put it best on Twitter: “…man did Spurs get lucky today.”
xG map for City – Spurs.
Re-watching this and…. man did Spurs get lucky today pic.twitter.com/GUTjfCDSqs
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 22, 2017
Arsenal vs Manchester United
Arsenal pre match: 2.5
Final score: 1-3
The end of the year threw up some fun results, not least Watford’s final five minute capitulation to Crystal Palace that had Watford backers tearing their hair out, but December’s clash between Arsenal and Man Utd was perhaps the biggest betting beat. While United fans will claim they “took their chances” and there is some merit to that argument, the stats tell a horror story for Gunners backers.
Anyone backing Arsenal to down a United side that had been outperforming their underlying statistics were about to get a solid slap in the face from variance here. With just four minutes gone a misplaced defensive pass was picked off by United’s Valencia who hit a beautiful clean shot from a tight angle to make it 0-1. Then just seven minutes later another defensive error created a chance for Jesse Lingard who created and finished a wonderful move to make it 0-2 before the game had really got started.
From that point on Arsenal absolutely poured it on. United keeper De Gea made seven saves in the first half alone, but the scoreboard read 0-2 at the break. And it was more of the same in the second half. Lacazette found the net on the 49th minute but that man De Gea was on another planet finishing the game with 14 saves, equalling a Premier League record.
To add insult to injury United found the net once more on the 63rd minute with a clinical break and a finish from Lingard. But it was entirely against the run of play. At the end of the game United finished with 8 shots and Arsenal finished with 38. Shots on target read 16 to Arsenal and just 4 to Man Utd. It was the type of game where fans and home backers were left reeling.
Will we see another game like that in 2018? We can only hope so. But we’re not sure the TV will survive if we’re on the bad side of luck once again.